The village that Soga no Kuniko and Mariko had called their home was all but gone. While the sisters remained in the ruins of their home, their friend Hitomi as well as their parents Nagahiro and Kazue were forced to flee along with the survivors. While bitterness reigned among the refugees as they heard of the Soga clan head's encounter with his wayward daughter, a pair of youkai had decided to visit the unfortunate sisters to hear of their perspective on the tragic events.
Kuniko looked upon the two youkai standing before her, rubbing her eyes a bit as she tried to tried to get up. Mariko was resting on her lap, moved slightly to the side as she felt her sister trying to move. "What do you want?" Grinning at the less than friendly greeting, Manami placed her sake gourd aside before giving a reply. "We just came to ask you about what happened here last night. Apparently, nobody wanted to stick around after that little stunt you pulled off."
The two women glared at one another intently for a moment, only for Kuniko to recall what had happened and look down at the ground. "I went berserk. I killed the youkai who ruined me in revenge before I went to get back at the people who had wronged me before. My friend ran away, and our family abandoned us." Suddenly, Manami wiped the smug smirk from her face and placed a hand below her chin as if in deep thought while her mysterious friend began to inquire.
"Where, if I may ask, did your friend Hitomi flee to?" Thinking about it for a moment, Kuniko recalled that both the Hata clan and her parents fled west, though she began to wonder why was this youkai so curious about the friend who had seemingly abandoned her. Seeing this, the woman responded with a solemn look on her face. "I wish to see how she is doing, since I owe her family a favor and I wanted to see if she would be willing to return to her friend's side despite what had happened."
This statement caused Kuniko to give the youkai a blank stare of disbelief, but she soon turned to look at Manami with a frown as the ushi-oni laughed out loud in a nearly maniacal manner. "That girl, come back here? Never going to happen. Once you've become hated like me and Kuni-chan here, nobody you once knew will ever come back for you." As she then proceeded to explain of her own experiences, the other youkai chose to not hear it and headed towards the door.
"I wish you both the best of luck. Shimizu-san, please do not expect me to return any time soon, either." While Kuniko and Manami watched the woman leave, they noticed her feet did not even once step on the grass outside the village, as if she was partly walking on air. They soon turned to look at one another and then at Mariko, noticing the younger Soga waking up as she rubbed her eyes while moving over to sit up. "Onee-sama, who are you talking to?"
After a moment, the girl's sight cleared up, leaving her shocked as she noticed Manami in the room. "What are you doing here?!" Bearing a slight grin on her face as the Mariko seemed frightened by her, the ushi-oni briefly explained her presence before turning her attention back to Kuniko. "I just dropped by to check on you with a friend of mine, since you two are kind of in the same mess as I am." Both sisters asked what she meant by this, which the ushi-oni then explained.
"As an ushi-oni, it's more or less guaranteed that both humans and youkai will come to hate me. You two are probably in the same mess as I am right now. The humans ran away from you in fear, while the local youkai who did survive know you only as the ones who tried to hunt them down." The sisters remained silent as they heard this, clearly seeing what Manami meant. Meanwhile, the mysterious youkai accompanying the ushi-oni had arrived at her destination only to notice something going on.
Much to her shock, the locals had surrounded Soga no Nagahiro and his wife Kazue, calling the two out in anger. "If you had done something to stop her, we wouldn't even have had to leave the village behind. You and those Hata family bastards just sat back and watched while our homes burned to the ground!" As they soon apprehended the man, his stoic expression broke for a mere moment as he gave the angered crowd his last request with gritted teeth.
"You are free to kill me for what I've done. But please, spare my wife from all of this." The angry mob decided to do so, letting the woman run to the Hata family's household, unaware of the problems Hitomi's parents were now facing as her father first looked at her daughter and then shifted his gaze outside, speaking his mind in the presence of a loyal retainer. "If those peasants over there want to thank us for our help in such a way, then we'll have to take our leave from here as well."
The man paused as he then left the entrance and headed in-doors. Making sure that his daughter wouldn't hear him, he then closed every door behind him before arriving at a room where his wife was resting after having drank some tea. "We have to get out of here. The commoners are starting to riot out there, and it looks like they're going to kill Nagahiro now." Responding to the news with a somber expression, the woman asked what should the two do about their daughter, shocked at the answer she then received.
"We have to leave her behind. She cut her hair short and has barely eaten anything nor talked to anyone. She's clearly been cursed by those damned youkai. They probably did it before we found her in the fire." Just then, one of the servants rushed to the room, informing the two of the locals making their approach. The two quickly got up and began to run, escorted by an entourage of servants while Hitomi lied down in her room, half-asleep and unaware of the impending danger.